If such questions have plagued any one of us there is one thing that needs to be recognized. We have lost, or never had, the recognition that it isn’t about or for “me” that we are doing this. Today’s contemporary culture has increasingly degenerated to the “it’s all about me” mindset and many of today’s congregations demonstrate that this same inclination has infiltrated the professed worship that is practised. It is very important that we prepare for and participate in the Lord’s Supper in a manner that fulfills the reason for which it exists.
The Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:20) is very different from what many people think of when they talk about worship. There’s no outlined programme and it lacks, by human standards, any level of excitement or entertainment. Yet, it is what our Saviour requires of those who follow Him. The question here is not, “Should we do this?” but rather, “How should we do this?” How can I prepare so as to have a valuable contribution to make at the next breaking of bread?
What should we do when we remember Him? We each take a piece of the bread and a sip from the cup. But is there more? Do we only thank the Lord for dying to save us? Christ said, “This do in remembrance of Me.” Yet the two emblems observed in their distinction (body and blood separated) give substance to the apostle Paul’s words, “Ye do show the Lord’s death” (1 Cor 11:26). These two Scriptures indicate that we should focus on both His death and His person at the Lord’s Supper. With that in mind, we can keep our spiritual senses active in finding truths in God’s Word that vividly bring such things to our minds.
It goes without saying that we need to be reading our Bible daily, even more than once a day. Yes, the need is real if we are to find spiritual food for our souls to sustain us and give us strength to live godly lives. Yet another incentive for reading God’s Word is to shape our thoughts for the occasion of worship with the assembly. It has become very evident that meditation is necessary, although we confess, too often, it is a rare experience in our lives. Focus and reflection are two elements of meditation. Taking note of things that remind us of Christ and obtaining focus can be done in different ways. Some actually keep two Bibles, one for “gospel”, and the other for “worship.” The notes they make in the two Books enhance their intended use. It is a good practice to either have a reading Bible in which you feel free to write notes in a casual manner (not necessarily a study Bible) or to keep paper or various electronic devices handy to make brief notes to aid in retention and for future reference. When reading, we find precious things both by comparison and contrast. Old Testament characters and the various offerings afford tremendous visions of Christ. The distinction of failing men (contrast) provides the means to reflect on the wonders of the Perfect Man. The offerings illustrate various facets of the worth of the “once for all sacrifice” when the similarities (comparison) are noted. Also, the offerings God required under the law of Moses were costly to the giver. So it is for us if we are going to have suitable worship to offer. It takes time to read, to meditate and, beyond that, to study. But never has a believer regretted doing so. And let’s not forget the blessings of the consistent reading of the four Gospels.
Having focused on passages that speak to us about Christ, we can now reflect on these things: His eternal nature, genuine humanity, sinless perfection, life of faithfulness, compassion, and so much more. We remember Him. When we “declare” His sacrificial death, it is “till He comes”. This essentially recalls His resurrection and ascension, also part of our remembrance. The subject of our Lord Jesus Christ provides so much to ponder that the writer to the Hebrews said, “Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually” (13:15). The more we absorb throughout a week of reading and studying, the more prepared we’ll be to offer suitable praise at the next gathering to remember Him.
In Psalm 45:1 the writer says, “My heart is welling forth with a good matter: I say what I have composed touching the King. My tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Darby). Following this example, we note that his heart is full and overflowing, having carefully arranged (composed) his thoughts about the King. And he is now ready to talk about it. Clearly, his worship was both intelligent and passionate. It involved his head and his heart and so it should be with us today. It is wonderful when a brother has finished his prayerful worship, that others are keenly aware of what has touched his heart and they can sincerely add “Amen!”
The Lord’s Supper is an equal privilege for all who are present. However, we soon learn that we’re not all necessarily equal when it comes to opening our mouths. There is, of course, the scriptural mandate of our sisters participating in silence. But there is also the inescapable fact that some men are far more comfortable than others while talking on their feet. One thing must be clearly understood: prayerful public worship is not the result of spiritual gift nor of natural ability. It is the privilege of every man in the assembly. It is not only a privilege, but actually expected of us who are males. The principle is noted in Deuteronomy 16:16-17: “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which He shall choose…they shall not appear before the LORD empty: every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which He hath given thee.” Here the command to come, as the Lord required with something to offer, is expected of all. Yet there is distinction that God takes into consideration and that involves the measure in which He has provided for the man. I suggest then that, today, this includes the aspects of natural ability and spiritual gift. Nevertheless, all were to come with something to give. Some of the most heart-warming and worship-prompting participation at the Lord’s supper has come from those who were young in the faith or those who were not favoured with public speaking ability. They spoke with a ready tongue from a full heart and the Lord was honoured. We also need to note here that the man who stands to pray is speaking as a priest on behalf of the whole assembly and not just for himself (Acts 4:24). Additionally, his worship benefits others (1 Cor 14:16-17).
At times, there is a very evident theme during the worship. This can be attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit. But how so? We can’t separate the intelligent consideration of the progress in the worship from the sense of spontaneous participation. The Spirit of God has already been working long before the Lord’s Day morning arrives. This isn’t some mystical undertaking. Remember how in Ephesians 5:18-19 and in Colossians 3:16 there is a parallel drawn that equates being “filled with the Spirit” and “letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly”. This shows us that during the week’s reading and meditation the Holy Spirit was active. Then, when we meet together, we don’t dismiss logical thought and then expect some fanciful proceedings to unfold. We must still consider what should be said and sung, and when. Take this to the extreme for a moment. Would it be proper to give thanks for the cup immediately at the commencement of the meeting? Obviously not, since we know from the Scriptures that it should happen after giving thanks for the bread. Equally so, it’s necessary to look for hymns that relate to the breaking of bread. A rousing round of Revive Thy Work O Lord doesn’t address the purpose of the occasion. The Believer’s Hymn Book contains conveniently subtitled sections in the index that help us choose hymns that are suited to the various meetings and even to themes within the scope of remembering the Lord. Some hymns, though very beautiful, speak primarily of our blessings and thus fail to further the worship that has developed. It’s appropriate to silently seek the guidance of the Spirit regarding what and when to sing. A well-chosen hymn will keep the focus of the saints on Christ and perhaps even accent what has gone before in prayer. But, it’s particularly wonderful to hear a brother, younger or otherwise, with an evidently touched heart, telling the Father of the splendours of His Son. And if our hearts have been previously feeding on Him, the Holy Spirit can call to our minds, even momentarily, something that expands a particular aspect of the Lord Jesus at that point in the meeting. So yes, it is necessary to come with thoughts prepared, but it is also of great benefit to have a storehouse of thoughts that can be drawn out when it seems more appropriate. This will develop with spiritual growth and experience.
It is easy, when younger, to be intimidated when hearing the long prayers of others. Sadly, some of those long prayers prove to be wandering medleys rather than wondering meditations. Looking at the various offerings in the Old Testament, we see that there were specific animals, procedures, etc., for particular offerings. When all was said and done, the priest had no question as to what it was and why the person had brought such an offering. We should learn to be specific and avoid wandering repeatedly from the cradle to the cross. Note how the Lord Himself gave thanks for the emblems in the upper room. This is not to say that we should only say a sentence or two as the Scriptures record of that event. But in giving thanks for the emblems our prayer should emphasise the particular emblem and thus our thanksgiving for that emblem won’t be an after-thought at the end of a lengthy prayer concerning other things.
The words of Hebrews 13:15 are worth noting again as we conclude. “Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips.” The expression “sacrifice of praise” suggests that the person praying is giving himself no place or status in the matter. The term “sacrifice” is rooted in the thought “to kill”, and “praise” is something that should be reserved for another. So we have death to self and honour to another.
As we consider and focus on the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, our thoughts will embrace the Father’s thoughts of His Son, and worship will ascend as fragrance to heaven.
Article by Stuart Thompson (Originally published in Truth and Tidings magazine)
Photo: The Kidron Valley, Jerusalem, Israel.
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